The Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor has announced the recipients of the 2020 Erie Canalway Heritage Award of Excellence. This years recipients are Erie Canal Heritage Park at Port Byron and Gateway Harbor of the Tonawandas in North Tonawanda and Tonawanda. The Port of Newark in Newark received Honorable Mention.
The Heritage Award honors significant places of the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor and recognizes excellence in advancing the goals of the Erie Canalway Preservation and Management Plan. A five-person independent jury selected award recipients based on a written application and a virtual site interview with community leaders and stakeholders.
Erie Canal Heritage Park, Port Byron
What was once an abandoned canal lock along the NYS Thruway in Cayuga County is now a regional destination featuring a visitor center, restored historical buildings, and the unearthed Lock 52. Years of perseverance, fundraising, and sweat equity provided by the Canal Society of New York State, working in partnership with the NYS Thruway Authority and others, are behind every facet of the park.
Visitors begin at the park’s visitor center, where displays of historic canal objects and an 1893 large-scale lock model orient them to the site. They are then invited to walk through the massive stone structure of Lock 52, built in 1853, and tour the restored 1894 Erie House Tavern & Hotel, mule barn and blacksmith shop. Interpretive signs and volunteers share information and stories about the 19th century waterway.
Located along the NYS Thruway between exits 40 and 41, the park is accessible from a dedicated eastbound Thruway exit, as well as from NY Route 31 in Port Byron. In 2019, patrons came from every state in the nation and 60 countries. The park’s unique location enables the Canal Society to reach a whole new audience. Travelers who might not otherwise take the time to stop for an off-route historic attraction, are introduced to New York’s canal heritage and to the many places where they can visit the canal today.
Gateway Harbor of the Tonawandas, North Tonawanda & Tonawanda
Decades of collaborative investment and waterfront revitalization have built Gateway Harbor of the Tonawandas in Niagara County into a vibrant public space and regional destination. By crossing county and community boundaries, Tonawanda and North Tonawanda created a single campus that unites north and south by water and enhances both communities.
Projects included: developing 1,000 feet of dockage and amenities for boaters, creating paddlesport access, converting an adjacent street into pedestrian-only green space with passive and active recreation, developing a network of trails, attracting mixed-use commercial development, designating a downtown historic district, and connecting the harbor with adjacent downtowns. The collaborative efforts between Tonawanda and North Tonawanda were funded in part by the NYS Department of State Local Waterfront Revitalization Program, the Buffalo Billion Smart Growth Community Fund, and NYS Canal Corporation Canalway Grant Program.
The harbor’s success has sparked reinvestment in long-abandoned commercial properties along the waterfront and attracted new businesses to both cities. Visitors and residents are drawn to the waterfront restaurants, local attractions, and recreational opportunities at Gateway Harbor, extending their stay and boosting the economic impact of tourism in the region.
Port of Newark, Newark
The Village of Newark in Wayne County capitalized on its canal waterfront resources to create a vibrant port sustained by a strong community, recreation and arts, and private partnerships. The Port of Newark includes canalfront with 1,200 feet of floating docks, T. Spencer Knight Park, and a Welcome Center run by the Greater Newark Chamber of Commerce. The Canalway Trail runs through the park, bringing cyclists, runners, and walkers to the village and waterfront.
The active port has attracted new businesses as well, including Erie Shore Landing– a former industrial building just steps from the park that now offers a gift shop, café, ice cream parlor, and print shop run by The Arc Wayne. Newark’s downtown district is an easy walk from the port; new streetscape and landscape improvements make it safer and for pedestrians to enjoy the park and access the Village.
Community events during the summer enliven the park and attract thousands of visitors each year. A wide assortment of stakeholders contributes time, talent, and expertise to make the port a community showpiece. The Port of Newark is a testament to sustained planning and investment to create a premier destination on the Erie Canal in the heart of the Village of Newark.
More information about this year’s recipients and prior winners is available online.
Photos, from above: Gateway Harbor of the Tonawandas courtesy Pierre Williot; Erie Canal Heritage Park at Port Byron courtesy Keith Boas; and Port of Newark provided.